Thursday 25 January 2007


On our recent visit to Venice we visited the Joie de Vivre exhbibition of pictures by Pablo Picasso currently on show at the Palazzo Grassi until 11 March.

One of the fascinating revelations of this exhibition was the way in which Picasso would begin a study for a painting with a very naturalistic image and then - through a series of drawings - would reduce it to something that was little more than an abstraction or ideogram of the original subject.

I was very intrigued by the process - showing as it does that Picasso fully understood all the rules of art before ever setting about breaking them - and was, therefore, interested to discover that, in 1955, the French film director Henri-Georges Clouzot decided to record Picasso creating twenty artworks on a specially designed transparent canvas that would allowing the camera - and the viewer - to follow the way in which Picasso added, removed or changed elements in the composition until he was satisfied.

The resulting film, The Mystery of Picasso, is now available on DVD and here, as a trailer, is one of the paintings in which a bull and a bull-fighter (recurrent motifs in Picasso's work) emerges from a few geometric shapes and then pass through a series of complex metamorphoses before reaching completion.


Anonymous said...

Sounds surprisingly logical: learn the rules before you break them! When I was studying French, we spent weeks learning how & when to use the subjunctive in all its different forms, then when we had mastered it, we learnt how to avoid it!

Brian Sibley said...

GILL e-mailed with this comment:

"When in Barcelona many years ago I went to the Picasso Museum there.
They have a great many Picassos that are straightforwardly representational and prove just how well he did know the rules!"

Precisely, and maybe - as with many artists, writers and musicians - one of the definitions of genius is the ability to map the road in your chosen discipline and then have the confidence, vision and sheer audacity to drive off in a new direction...

Picasso (and many of his contemporaries), Beckett, Stravinsky are twentieth century examples that leap to mind, but every epoch has given birth to them and often their exploratory journeys have been the basis for a new road map...

John Hood said...

Thank you for the birthday wishes. Incidentally, I've added a link to your blog and hope that you can reciprocate.



Matt Jones said...

I read about this expo in a French art mag- looks excellent. You're lucky to have seen it.

In London I had a large print of the top image on my wall for years.
It express la joie de vivre perfectly.

Did you ever see the series of prints Picasso made starting with a naturalistic bull then reducing it to it's vital, abstract form.

Fascinating stuff.

Brian Sibley said...

Yes, Matt, the series of Bull prints were part of this exhibition... Totally intriguing - and a kind of animation!